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STICK IN THE WHEEL - Follow Them True

STICK IN THE WHEEL - Follow Them True
From Here Records SITW007CD

Recorded in 2017, Follow Them True took time to emerge as a successor to Stick In The Wheel’s debut From Here and their curated album of English field recordings. Blimey, it was worth the wait! The music is fierce and tender by turn, respecting the tradition yet at its pointy end. Some tracks are in the same pared back style as From Here, but many are plumped up with electronic sounds and even autotuning. Yet, dead centre, there’s a graceful, precise playing of a great English survivor, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.

Ian Carter has a key role as guitarist and producer. His looping guitar sound on tracks like the opening original song, Over Again, is fresh yet somehow age-old. Nicola Kearey’s singing is a bold statement from London’s streets. One such street features in White Copper Alley (remember Nic Jones’ debut?), which is rewritten with a stunning ending. She shows in Blind Beggar Of Bethnal Green that she does tender too.

My copy has no liner notes and, deliberately or not, no distinction between traditional and original songs. This creates some challenges. For instance, Unquiet Grave, sung unaccompanied by Nicola, isn’t the usual trad song and is probably original. Anyway, it’s very fine. The overall mix is about 50/50.

I don’t want to overplay Follow Them True’s uniqueness (I nod to Martyn Bennett and Jim Moray here). But it is visceral and thrilling, it champions the downtrodden, and it captures our turbulent times. Oh, and here’s to the handclaps. You can never have too many.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 123 of The Living Tradition magazine.